Which Is Better: Inbound or Outbound Recruiting?

Generally speaking, there are two broad categories of tactics that most recruiters consider: "inbound recruiting" and "outbound recruiting." Each represents a completely different philosophy about the recruiting game, and each comes with its own set of strategies and approaches. But is one better than the other?

What's the Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Recruiting?

As any job seeker will tell you that companies differ wildly in their approaches to hiring. That's why it's important for job seekers to think carefully about their resumes, cover letters, and how they choose to market themselves. The most important distinction in recruiting is between inbound and outbound styles.

"Inbound recruiting" refers to efforts meant to attract more applicants to a company. These efforts could include job advertisements, careers pages, and the ongoing promotion of employer brand messages. "Outbound recruiting," on the other hand, involves a recruiter or team of recruiters selectively hunting down individual candidates to fill open positions.

Larger companies often rely on a combination of both methods, but is one more effective than the other?

Advantages of Inbound Recruiting

Inbound recruiting has some clear advantages:

1. A Bigger Pool of Applicants

Inbound recruiting can open the floodgates, so to speak. People everywhere are going to see your campaign efforts and be invited to apply. You could have hundreds or thousands of people competing for your positions, which means you'll have a wider range to select from – and hopefully a better final candidate for each position.

2. Less Effort Up Front

Don't misunderstand: Inbound recruiting still requires a significant investment, especially if you're looking to adopt it as a long-term strategy. You'll need to set up an application platform, write and place your advertisements, and work on your brand messaging. That said, you'll end up putting in less upfront effort than you would with outbound recruiting, which requires rigorous scouting and hours of communication to find just a handful of candidates.

3. Lasting Power

Once an inbound recruiting system is in place, it can remain in place indefinitely. You can have a rotating pool of applicants who are ready for any of your open positions, and you won't need to start from scratch every time you have a new opening.

Advantages of Outbound Recruiting

On the other hand, outbound recruiting has advantages of its own:

1. More Specific Targets

With outbound recruiting, you'll be able to hunt down the perfect candidate on your own, rather than hoping they come through your application process. For positions that require very specific skill sets or demand a high level of talent, this is a huge advantage. You'll see better results looking for one specific person than you would sorting through thousands of potential fits.

2. Less Effort in Vetting

Speaking of sorting, while inbound recruiting demands less upfront effort, it also requires more effort in the vetting process. You have to filter through all your applicants and determine which are worth pursuing.

In outbound recruiting, the vetting process happens at the top, so you'll spend less overall time sorting through candidates.

3. Personal Touch

Finally, outbound recruiting gives your recruiting effort a personal touch. Not only will this make your brand seem friendlier and more approachable to your targets, but it may also help your employment relationship start off on the right foot. Some recruiters prefer outbound recruiting simply because it gives them more of an opportunity to engage with people, rather than reading resumes and cover letters all day.

Which Is Better?

There's a reason both inbound and outbound recruiting are used regularly by recruiters everywhere. Neither one is strictly better than the other. If your position requires a highly specific skill set or high level of talent, outbound recruiting is a must. If you're trying to fill multiple entry-level positions, you'll almost certainly need to rely on inbound recruiting to get the job done. For the most part, the best strategy is a hybrid strategy that helps you leverage the advantages of each approach.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.